GENEVA, September 1, 2014 – A 21-year-old Iraqi Christian woman made an impassioned appeal today before a UN meeting on ISIS atrocities, speaking on behalf of the Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch, which spearheaded this month’s campaign by rights activists, MPs and Iraqi minority leaders calling for the emergency session, with a rally, press conference and diplomatic marathon featuring Iraqi Christian and Yazidi leaders. (See Maryam Wahida’s testimony below.)
“Today’s urgent session on the Islamic State’s butchering of Iraq’s Christians, Yazidis and other minorities is long overdue, but it’s better late than never,” said UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer.
“However, we are deeply concerned that the council refused to create a full-fledged, independent commission of inquiry into the Islamic State’s atrocities — as it has done previously on Syria, Libya, Cote d’Ivoire and Gaza — but instead only a low-level mission by staffers of the UN rights office,” said Neuer. “This sends the wrong message.”
“Moreover, the resolution completely fails to hold the Baghdad government accountable for its own well-documented violations of international humanitarian law. It’s wrong for the UN’s highest human rights body to turn a blind eye to the Iraqi government’s mass executions of Sunni prisoners, kidnappings and summary executions by security forces and government-backed Shia militias, and indiscriminate air strikes, including barrel bombs, that have killed hundreds of civilians in Mosul and other heavily-populated areas.”
“Instead, we have the farce today whereby the Human Rights Council actually praises the Shiite government’s ‘efforts to foster religious freedom and pluralism’.”
UN WATCH STATEMENT TO UNHRC EMERGENCY SESSION ON ISIS
1 September 2014
Thank you, Mr. President.
My name is Maryam Wahida, and I am a Christian born and raised in Iraq, where most of my family remains. I am privileged to speak on behalf of UN Watch.
I have come here today, with my family, to bear witness before the world about the horrific crimes perpetrated by the Islamic State against my relatives, against the Christians, Yazidis and other minorities in Iraq.
For many weeks now, the terrorists have invaded our villages, destroyed ancient churches, and burned historical archives dating back many centuries.
Mr. President, I welcome today’s meeting. But given the extreme life-and-death urgency, we must ask: Why has the UN waited so long?
The victims of Iraq want to know: What could be more urgent than stopping the terrorists of the Islamic State from persecuting, attacking, enslaving, raping and beheading our men, women and children?
Those who survived were forced to flee their homes. As displaced persons, they now live in horrible conditions, without basic hygiene and sanitation. They sleep in the streets, on the floor, inside and outside of churches. Children and the elderly suffer the most, and there are many illnesses that quickly spread among the victims.
I speak on the telephone to my relatives in Iraq. I learned about how my cousin Nawar, a 25-year-old pharmacist in Erbil, started collecting money to buy medical supplies for the sick. He managed to buy a wheelchair for one refugee, a 90-year-old woman, who was very happy to receive the help.
I wish to thank all of the governments that have helped so far. But the international community must do more—whatever it can—to help the victims, such as by creating a safe region for displaced persons within Iraq, and to facilitate asylum and migration.
Mr. President, I hope that I can call my relatives in Iraq tonight with news of strong and effective action from the UN, to save the victims who are in such desperate need of the world’s help.
Thank you, Mr. President.